Sunday, 7 September 2014

Free Verse 2014 report

This year's Free Verse poetry bookfair was - as always - a success, or so it appeared from the Five Leaves stall, one of 61 groups exhibiting this year. The number of stall holders was up slightly on last year, though I did think the number of attendees was marginally down. There was still a pile of the paperback style free programme left at the end, indicating a smaller take up than expected. On the other hand, the number of readings during the day seems to have doubled and the readings carried on well into the evening in a nearby hostelry. The event was also expertly organised by Chrissy Williams and Joey Connolly with, for example, volunteers to cover stalls to allow publishers to wander a little or to support their authors at readings.
What was also interesting was the new appearance of some of the big boys - Faber and Picador - rubbing shoulders with the groundlings. And rub shoulders they have to do as one of the major features of the bookfair is that everyone gets the same space - one table. If TS Eliot was alive today he'd be sitting behind a Faber stall on a cranky plastic seat next to a metaphorical One Person and a Dog Press with five pamphlets to its name. And every publisher putting on a reading gets the same time. Democracy in action. Thanks to Arts Council funding Free Verse can pay travel expenses from out of London presses too, which means that northern publishers can take part without bankrupting themselves.
The Five Leaves stall did better than ever, after a slow start. We only had one new poetry book - our A Modern Don Juan, which people flocked to buy in their ones, but, thanks to our bookshop, we also took poetry stock from non-exhibiting presses which (sigh) attracted more attention and sales than our own.
We were next to a much busier stall, our chums at Happenstance Press, run by the enterprising Helena Nelson, whose new anthology of choc-lit poems was supplemented by free chocolate. A good stall to be next to. Many other "friends of Five Leaves" were around, including Cathy Galvin launching her first poetry pamphlet with Melos Press and Rosie Miles, whose first pamphlet will come from Happenstance next year. Our shop worker Leah was attending her first Free Verse and was interested in reported research showing that only 1% of published poets are Black. At the time we were discussing it, she was one of only two Black people among hundreds in the Conway Hall. As organisers of poetry readings that gave us some thought, and is a subject we'll be addressing in the New Year.
Leah got to readings, while I stayed behind the stall, greeting a lot of old friends including a delighted Michael Ezra - delighted, that is, because the People's March for the NHS was rallying in Red Lion Square outside the Free Verse venue. One poor bloke was, I heard, giving his biggest ever poetry reading in the Square when joined by hundreds of marchers, a samba band and a PA with speeches and Billy Bragg. Meh, could the two events not have been merged somehow?
I mentioned before that if we were to price our labour properly - travel time, time behind the stall, preparing and unpacking the stalls, giving readings - everyone would be losing money hand over fist, but that is not important. With luck you go back with fewer books than you came with. From a Bookshop point of view it did look like we were going to make a decent profit on the day - until we found the stock of etruscan books (their choice of lower case), a lot of which was taken for the shop. We'll be back next year.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Free Verse Poetry Book Fair 2014

Ignore the numbers against the publisher name here - it relates to the floor plan at the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair this Saturday, 6th September at Conway Hall in London. There is also a reading programme throughout the day and into the evening. The list? Yes, simply to point out that this Saturday is an opportunity to browse through the stock of more poetry publishers than you might think exists in this country. The full programme and directions for the event are on The readings and fair are free. Five Leaves will have copies of our new book A Modern Don Juan: Cantos for These Times by Divers Hands edited by Andy Croft and Nigel Thompson. It will arrive at Five Leaves Towers on Friday. That's about as near as hot off the press as you can get.

34 13 Pages
52 A Midsummer Night’s Press
6 Acumen Publications
7 Allardyce, Barnett, Publishers
8 Ambit
51 Annexe
9 Arc Publications
49 Blart
46 Bloodaxe Books
10 Burning Eye Books
11 Candlestick Press
12 Carcanet Press
37 CB editions
40 Cultured Llama
4 Emma Press
13 Etruscan Books
35 Eyewear Publishing
39 Five Leaves Publishing
46 Faber & Faber
14 Flarestack Poets
15 Gatehouse Press
52 Grey Hen Press
38 HappenStance
16 Hearing Eye
2 Henningham Family Press
51 Hercules Editions
17 Holland Park Press
49 if p then q
36 Isobar Press
47 Knives Forks and Spoons Press
18 Leafe Press
1 Melos Press
30 New Departures
20 Nine Arches Press
21 Oystercatcher Press
3 Peepal Tree Press
50 Penned in the Margins
22 Picador Poetry
1 Rack Press
23 Reality Street
24 Roncadora Press
25 Seren Books
26 Shearsman Books
5 Sidekick Books
27 Smokestack Books
28 Templar Poetry
5 Tuba Press
36 Two Rivers Press
29 Valley Press
31 Veer Books
32 Ward Wood Publishing
48 West House Books
33 Worple Press
49 zimZalla
53 Forward Arts Foundation
54 Inpress Books
45 Poetry Library
42 Poetry School
44 Poetry Society
43 Poetry Translation Centre

Sunday 30 November - Ian Nairn Bus Tour of London

"The way to come on St Paul's is along Fleet Street, and the way to go along Fleet Street is on top of a bus."
- Ian Nairn

A Routemaster bus tour followed by a gathering to mark the reissue of Nairn's London and celebrate the life and work of Ian Nairn (1930-1983), Britain's greatest topographical writer.

We'll be travelling around the East End and the City on the very same Routemaster bus (CUV 217C) featured on the original cover of Nairn's London (Penguin Books, 1966) with the author pictured at the wheel.

Tickets will be available from 1st October

Adults £30 Family (2 adults + 2 children) £80
Concessions £20

Ticket price includes all admissions, perambulations and access to events at the final venue.

Assemble at Foxcroft & Ginger, 68 Mile End Road from
10 am (refreshments available). Bus leaves at 11 am.

The route will include:

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry The Barbican and Golden Square
Bevis Marks synagogue Leadenhall Market & Lloyds building
Hill & Evans vinegar warehouse Postman's Park
Cloth Fair and West Smithfield Bart's Hospital
Holborn Viaduct Chancery Lane
Fleet Street Ludgate Hill
St Paul's Cathedral Cheapside
Bank of England Royal Exchange
St Ethelburga's church Christ Church, Spitalfields
King's Cross and environs Surprise final destination!

The tour will end at around 4:30pm in a wonderful central London location and will feature:

* Professor Gavin Stamp, the distinguished architectural historian, who will talk about the author and his work.

* Gillian Darley and David McKie, co-authors of Ian Nairn: Words in Place (Five Leaves Publications, 2013)

* Travis Elborough, author of The Bus We Loved: London's Affair With the Routemaster (Granta Books, 2005)

* Simon Okotie will be reading from Whatever Happened to Harold Absalon? (Salt Publishing, 2013), an existential whodunnit set entirely on a bus.

Finally Ian Nairn himself will appear on screen in one of his BBC broadcasts from the 1970s.

Nairn's London (with a new introduction by Gavin Stamp) and other books by our speakers will be on sale.

Ends 6pm or later.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Terry Taylor, author and counterculture figure

In 2010 - when Five Leaves was building a reputation for its New London Editions series - we were regularly approached by people suggesting new titles. Within a three month period three people suggested Baron's Court, All Change by Terry Taylor, a London novel first published in 1961 by the late, great MacGibbon & Kee. The book became our eighth New London Edition title, coming out in 2011 to great reviews in the TLS and elsewhere.
One of those who approached us was the author and performance artist Stewart Home. He told us that so desperate was he at one stage to have the book republished he'd photocopied 200 copies of the original and passed them around, hoping for an impact. In due course Stewart wrote the introduction to Terry's novel and spoke at our one meeting on the book, the meeting at which Terry slipped in quietly at the back, his only public appearance (if it can be called that) about Baron's Court. I wasn't at the event and never met Terry, though we had an amiable correspondence. He was very comfortable with the book but had moved on since it was first written. His life was different and he'd become, happily, a sandwich-maker in Rhyl, where he lived quietly with his "favourite gym instructor", his wife Wendy, as the dedication said in our edition. At one time an important paper - was it The Times? - was interested in interviewing him. Was he worried that his cover would be broken? No, he said, nobody in Rhyl reads The Times.
There was a personal connection between Stewart and Terry. Terry had helped out Stewart's mother when she was in difficulties, but primarily Stewart thought that Baron's Court was the best book of the British beatnik era. And it might well be.
The book documents one summer in the life of an unnamed sixteen year old narrator. He leaves his suburban home and boring job as a shop assistant for a "pad" in central London, paid for after he moves into dealing dope. Along the way he dabbles in spiritualism and has an affair with an older woman. There's a lot of dope in the book, which was also the first novel to mention LSD.
Terry was born in 1933 and was the inspiration for Colin MacInnes' Absolute Beginners. He was the assistant to the photographer Ida Kar, and her lover, despite the difference in age. Kar was the photographer of that era, that scene, and photographs of Terry are in the National Portrait Gallery. They can be seen here - As you can see, he was not averse to a bit of dope himself.
A second novel was turned down by MacGibbon & Kee as being too experimental. It has not survived. Terry, however, wrote a third novel The Run, which is still unpublished. I read the manuscript and, with some editing and rewrites, it would be worth publishing. The book explores the drug scene/drug dealing among British people in North Africa. It is racier than Esther Freud's Hideous Kinky and, of course, the parts of the story that don't quite ring true are based on real things that happened! Terry and I talked about publishing the book, making the necessary changes, but we never took the discussion to any conclusion.
Terry retained an interest in North Africa but also spent a lot of time in Goa, sending cheery emails to say he was there again.
Terry Taylor died a few days ago, after a short illness. He is survived by his favourite gym instructor and their daughters Amy and Zoe and an older daughter, Tracy, from a previous relationship.
Ross Bradshaw

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Campaign for Real Plebs

We are eagerly waiting an order for this book from Andrew Mitchell. 
The Plebs League and the Labour College Movement were at the forefront of adult education in the North East of England as previously self-educated shipyard workers and miners came together to create an adult education movement that they could control... a movement that sought to explain the political conditions in which they found themselves.
This short book celebrates the achievements of this long forgotten group of autodidacts.
The title reflects the choices faced by working class people at the time - the pit or the shipyards, then the major sources of employment in the region.
81 pages, illustrated, 9781910170076, £6.99
Available - post free - from Five Leaves Bookshop. Also in stock at Cogito (Hexham), Housmans (London) and elsewhere.